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The Turn to Learning Outcomes - 31 January 2022

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To be a part of this online event, please email Billy Holzberg to receive the link.

This presentation will critically examine the turn to learning outcomes in England and the EU and critiques some of its historical and philosophical underpinnings. The talk will begin by describing the origins of learning outcomes-based qualifications in England in the 1980s. It will describe the design philosophy and evolution of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and contrast these with content-led frameworks and qualifications such as the English National Curriculum. Chris will then note the design flaws of the NVQ and some policy implications of the NVQ experience, before moving on to consider the adoption of learning outcomes approaches to qualifications in the European Union, first through the introduction of the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and then of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO). First, Chris will argue that the EQF serves as an umbrella for qualifications fundamentally incompatible with each other. Second, it will be remarked that although ESCO has certain design features that liken it to the NVQ, it is also compatible with non-learning outcomes-based qualifications. Its assumptions about qualification design, based on task analysis, render it unsuitable as a template for the development of advanced vocational qualifications. The decline and fall of the NVQ and its replacement by standards-based qualification in England will be described and some lessons that can be learned by policymakers outlined. Learning outcomes-based qualifications are not fit for purpose.


Chris Winch is Professor of Educational Philosophy and Policy at King’s College London. Chris is a philosopher of education who is currently interested in professional knowledge and judgement, comparative vocational and professional education and the philosophy of educational research. He is currently involved in projects on learning outcomes in VET and the future of VET in Europe and is also a member of the team of researchers at King’s who are researching the transitions of the 50% of young people in England who are not intending to go to university.

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Christopher Winch

Christopher Winch

Professor of Educational Philosophy and Policy

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31 January 2022

Online event